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Shedding Light on Oneness/Modalist Pentecostalism and the UPC – Part One

by | Apr 8, 2024 | News

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This article is part one of a series of articles to come on the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) and churches that, while not officially affiliated with them, still fellowship with UPCI churches, or believe and practice the same or very similar religious beliefs as the UPCI itself. As this article is an introduction, it will not go as in-depth as later articles in this series in terms of theological and historical aspects of the UPCI. The UPCI is a Pentecostal denomination that promotes a oneness/modalistic ontology of the God of the Bible, as well as pushing water baptism and tongues as requirements for salvation, as you will see in this article below. Later articles will cover more in-depth the beliefs and practices of this denomination and similar non-affiliated churches.

This article will cover some of my own experience with the UPC, as well as my first—and so far only—visit to a church that is theologically aligned with the UPCI. While this church is not affiliated with the UPCI, it believes similarly and fellowships with UPC churches. This article will highlight my experience as well as some of the core theological beliefs and eccentricities that give us insight into what makes this church (as well as other similar churches) different from, say, an Assemblies of God, Open Bible, Calvary Chapel, or a Four Square Pentecostal church.

I came out of the Four Square denomination in September of 2017. I became disgusted with Four Square allowing females to preach and with increasingly New Apostolic Reformation-influenced practices. I left the theology of Pentecostalism and continuationism in early 2018, and I now most closely align with Reformed Theology. I have a desire to expose these false churches as we need to shed light on false teachings, false teachers, and false churches.

In December 2022, I visited First Pentecostal Church of North Little Rock in person. While this church is not directly affiliated with the UPCI, as you’ll see in this correspondence below, they fellowship with several UPCI churches and pastors.

Below is my email correspondence, with my contact info removed, with the church confirming they fellowship with UPC churches:

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Up until recently, I had only indirect experiences with the UPCI or UPCI adjacent(that is churches with similar beliefs not in the UPCI) churches. How I was first exposed to the denomination and belief system was through a now former friend. I had a friend in the 2010’s who used to be in the UPC as a child and teen. She mostly told me they had a lot of abusive practices, but she was never very specific as to what they were, and she never told me what they believed about the nature of God, she never told me that the UPC churches are “Oneness” or Modalist, and I believe that is likely because she did not question that view of God, it was a given to her. Six years ago, after we were no longer friends, I found out by my own research that the UPC were Oneness/Modalist. At the time I was still a Pentecostal/Charismatic(I completely left Pentecostalism in August 2018), but based on their Oneness/Modalist beliefs, I knew this was a denomination to avoid.

Gotquestions.org gives a good summary of what Modalism is:

“Modalistic Monarchianism teaches that the unity of God is incompatible with a distinction of Persons within the Godhead. According to modalism, God has variously manifested Himself as the Father (primarily in the Old Testament), as the Son (primarily from Jesus’ conception to His ascension), and as the Holy Spirit (primarily after Jesus’ ascension into heaven). Modalistic Monarchianism has its roots in the false teaching of Noetus of Smyrna around AD 190. Noetus called himself Moses and called his brother Aaron, and he taught that, if Jesus was God, then He must be the same as the Father. Hippolytus of Rome opposed this falsehood in his “Contra Noetum.” An early form of Modalistic Monarchianism was also taught by a priest from Asia Minor named Praxeas, who traveled to Rome and Carthage about AD 206. Tertullian countered the teaching of Praxeas in “Adversus Praxean” around 213. Modalistic Monarchianism and its related heresies were also refuted by Origen, Dionysius of Alexandria, and the Council of Nicea in 325.”

This belief is on the UPCI website and describes a oneness/modalistic view of the God of the Bible:

First Pentecostal Church of North Little Rock, while not a UPC church, beliefs line up with the UPC’s Oneness/Modalistic view of God as well.

(The above is from the FPCNLR website, note also besides Oneness/Modalism, it also presents a false view of salvation in that it requires not only baptism but also speaking in tongues)

Although my former friend told me of the abuses within this denomination, she never quite gave me specifics. She didn’t know how pervasive these abuses were within the UPC until she found a Facebook Group of people who were formerly UPC, it was a sort of support group. Despite this trauma that she experienced, she spoke highly of their teachings against sin, particularly that they spoke openly against homosexuality, she was a formerly lesbian and was very passionate that this is something pastors needed to preach against. The UPCI has a strong emphasis on Holiness, see this position paper on Holiness from 1977 here.

Back in the early 2010’s, it was very hard to find preachers who were really speaking out against this sin with any real forcefulness or regularity. This is why false teachers such as Matthew Vines began to gain a foothold within the church with their “gay-affirming” teachings that pushed homosexuality as biblical. I now understand, because of her former lesbian lifestyle, her being drawn back to the UPC with their emphasis on Holiness, despite their false teachings, and their admitted abuses, according to her own experience.

After me and her stopped being friends about 7 years ago, I never thought much about the UPC or UPC adjacent churches; until the end of 2022 on a cross country business trip to Arkansas/Oklahoma.

In early December 2022, I was in the Little Rock area. Me and my husband had business in Little Rock, and for 3 days we drove on I-30 to and from my business destination. On one of those days, my husband called out to me, he was driving, and said “Look at that church!” I saw it, and it was one of the biggest and most ornate church buildings I had ever seen.

(a photo of the front of the church from Google Maps, the interior and exterior shots are mostly from Google Maps)

Just from the outside, when I saw it, I would describe it as gaudy, showy, and lavish. I immediately said, “I have to go there on Sunday for church”. My husband scoffed and said jokingly “I shouldn’t have said anything to you about it”. I do want to be clear, my husband was fine with me going to this church, even though he did not go with me in the morning, but he did attend with me in the evening on the same Sunday, December 4th, 2022.

I immediately found the church, which turned out to be First Pentecostal Church of North Little Rock, on Google Maps. My initial impression was it was some type of Word of Faith church (which there is some element of this in the church for sure, but I would not call it Word of Faith). In my mind, what other kind of church would have such an outwardly opulent and showy building? The pictures of the inside, when I looked at the church on their Google Maps page, were equally, if not more lavish.

Once I looked at their website and the photos of the church on Google Maps, I was more sure I wanted to visit the church in person. This is not the first time I have visited churches with unbiblical or seemingly unbiblical practices. I have been to several other churches with heretical beliefs such as Bethel Redding, IHOPKC, and Bethesda of Vancouver, Washington, which is affiliated with Bethel Redding. I firmly believe in acquiring first-hand experience when possible, this is why I chose to attend First Pentecostal Church of North Little Rock when I was in the area, even though I knew very little about the church besides what it looked like and their apparent Modalist beliefs.

On Google Maps, I also saw pictures of their annual Easter Production, titled “I AM”(sorry the link is dead), it looked to be quite expensive, and quite lavish.

This is not a free evangelistic event, it is a full theatrical production, tickets are $10, $20, and $50, and I couldn’t believe this was supposedly a church( I am not saying charging money is in and of itself wrong by the way).

(the above is from their website, a page that is now defunct, about “I AM”.)

When I arrived at the church Sunday morning, I was a bit apprehensive and it was wet, raining, and cold. I saw a little bus shuttling people from one end of the long parking lot to the front doors. I did not wait for these, I just walked in the rain. It was a good distance, but I am fine with walking, and I don’t mind getting a little bit wet. It was raining hard and my hair got very wet. I did not have a jacket on, and I was in a modest black and white long-sleeve dress, below the knee in length. I had chin-length hair, and at the time, I had just a little makeup on and a faux pearl necklace.

When I was approaching the door, I felt no fear, and people were ahead of me walking in. I tried not to make a big deal of things when I attend churches that are outside of the orthodox, but just be there, and attend. The doors looked heavy, wooden, very tall, and ornate.

A man was holding the door open and greeting people. I thought nothing of this because churches always have greeters at their doors. This greeter greeted the family ahead of me, he was friendly and kind to that family. When he turned to me, he smiled, but then his smile quickly turned to a cold hard glare. I’d never been greeted so seemingly angrily by a door greeter before. I was taken back in my mind and very confused, but I did not show this on the outside, I smiled at him, and I walked into the church. I still had no idea what could make him seem to turn visibly angry towards me.

As I entered into the foyer of the church, I was struck by the ornateness and lavish decorations of the interior.

The extravagant designs were very overwhelming, and it reminded me of some of the old and ornate Catholic Cathedrals. It was a sort of sensory overload I’d never experienced in a church, on top of me being out of my comfort zone. I quickly moved on from the foyer or did not take time to explore the common areas. Instead, I quickly made my way into the sanctuary to find a seat. I didn’t talk to anyone, and my goal was to appear like I belonged, I generally try to not draw attention when visiting these types of churches. I didn’t yet understand the hostile reaction I received at the front door would not be an isolated instance at First Pentecostal Church.

I made my way through the large sanctuary and found a seat in a pew near some people, but not directly next to anyone. It was more towards the back, simply because it was already quite full. The closest people were in the pew in front of me, a couple in their early 50s, they seemed to be watching their grandchild. They turned to me, glared at me once, and then completely ignored me. Anyone else who looked my way for more than a slight glance glared at me, but mostly they ignored me, I felt very alone and awkward. It was 15 minutes before the start of the service, and it started to feel as though they were acting like I was not there, it felt a lot like a shunning, and a direct attempt to make me feel uncomfortable. It worked, I did feel very uncomfortable.

I had never experienced this in a church, it felt very deliberate, very intentionally cold like the door greeter. I watched those around the sanctuary, I noticed the women were all in very long dresses, with very long hair, most of them had it pulled back in a very tight braid or bun, and with no makeup or jewelry. The men were all in suits, nice suits, not cheap suits, and ties, with neatly groomed hair and all shaved, no facial hair. I observed there were many men roaming the perimeters of the sanctuary, in most cases, you might think these were just ushers, but they clearly played a more defined role. They appeared to be unmarked security and closely were watching everything that was going on. They were also rather intensely watching me, and I caught some of these men, occasionally looking at me and glaring. This glaring and coldness was a common thread while I was inside this church.

This example of the clothing the worship team was wearing was fairly typical of the congregation as a whole. This church does seem to allow slightly higher hemlines for skirts than many of the stories from these kinds of churches I have heard, where it is exclusively ankle-lengthed

I sat there uncomfortably for about 5 or so minutes when a woman from the upper section, but not the balcony, came down and started talking to me. She began to ask me questions, if I was new, where I was from, had I been to a Pentecostal church before? Once I told her I was out of town and new to the church, her expression softened. I informed her, yes, I had been to a Pentecostal church before, my father was a Four Square Minister(before I was born). She had a fairly blank expression when I said that, and it was likely because as I now know, she knew Four Square was nothing like this church. She then said hold on, I have something for you, she left for a couple of minutes, and came back with this bag:

(No they did not give me this bag torn, it became worn out over the last year and a half bouncing around the storage in my house.)

(The bag included a water bottle filled with candy, a church brochure including a map of the interior of the church to help you get around, a pen, and a $15 gift card for their cafe.)

I took the bag, and the lady informed me if I needed anything to please come find her, she pointed to where she was sitting, and I thanked for the gift and her time. She she told me about a $15 gift card for the cafe in church. I sat back down, and briefly glanced through the bag. The couple who previously glared at me and then ignored me just minutes ago now turned towards me and smiled rather forcefully and said “Thank you so much for coming! We are so glad you’re here!” It was very awkward, it felt so unnatural and forced, and we only shared a few words I told them I was not from the area(which is true, I live quite far away), and then I sat back down, minding my own business watching everyone else in the sanctuary, quietly waiting for the service to start.

The worship team and choir began to take the stage and the music started. It started loudly and with great force, it was so loud it hurt my head. The band was energetic, the music was upbeat, and the band played together seamlessly and each member listened well to each other for cues. In Pentecostal churches, regardless of the Pentecostal denomination or non-denomination, music plays a central role within the service and tends to eclipse the sermon portion.

The music being an integral role in the service is no different in that regard to other Pentecostal churches I’ve been to, just different stylistically. The musical proficiency and skill level were much higher than Bethel Redding or IHOPKC. The singers particularly sing with a very strong head/chest mix, similar to what roadway singers used to prominently sing with, and with a strong vibrato. If you are not musical, this will not mean a whole lot, but for those who appreciate strong natural voices, it is worth noting. The music with its high-energy songs and theater-like production, on the whole, was a well-oiled machine. This style, while quite different from Bethel or IHOPKC, is very effective in eliciting an emotional response, and I do not mean this to validate their methods or their theology by paying their musical skills a compliment, I am simply giving credit where credit is due.

As I listened, I stood there motionless observing the congregation/the worship team, and listening closely to the music, but not participating in it. This proficiency, in both singing and playing, is necessary for this service to work, and for the manipulation within the service to be successful. The music would go on only occasionally interrupted for 30 minutes, with many of the same repeated lines, and with the singers signaling the musicians to continue repeating certain lines. The manipulation is very prevalent throughout the service, as we will see later in the article.

(Fairly typical dress for the men in this church, clean-shaven, and short hair. I found the nice clothes and suits refreshing in a way after seeing most people in churches now just show up in jeans and T-shirts.)

(the background behind the singers is not a painting or poster, but a set of massive video screens)

If you want to view this worship and sermon for yourself, and I recommend you do, please please use this link. A Gallon and a Half – Rev. Taylor Fish – December 4, 2022, Sunday AM

When the worship concluded, the pastor, Nathan Holmes, actually declared a pretty clear gospel message at the 38-minute mark of the sermon mentioned above, but keep in mind their Oneness/Modalistic theology when listening to him, this is the framework he is sharing the gospel from and yes, this does indeed matter. I’ve been to many churches who have a right view of God and Salvation, that give less gospel than we see in this clip, and on a weekly basis, tend to only give passing comments about sin or what Jesus did on the cross.

Pastor Holmes did not give the sermon for either the evening or morning services on December 4, 2022. Rather a traveling minister named Reverend Taylor Fish did. Learn more about him here. He makes music and you can listen to that here, his songs are filled with common Pentecostal buzzwords, such as in his song “Holy Ghost”:

“Fresh oil is flowing
The Comforter is close
This victory feeling
Is called the Holy Ghost

It’s rest and refreshing
It’s heavenly power
An encore of Pentecost
Is happening this hour”

When Fish began to speak, things quickly ramped up emotionally. As I sat there listening to this sermon, I wondered how much of the Bible we would hear, and how much emotionalism we would get. I had a pretty good idea based on the exuberant worship, constant mentions of anointing and Holy Ghost revival, how emotional it would be. Couple that with a common thing most charismatic pentecostals I have seen do, and that is when they talk about the Holy Ghost and him coming in they will start waving their arm back and forth in front of them and across outward. See examples of this with Pastor Holmes here around 37 minutes and here around the 42 minute mark when Reverend Taylor Fish begins to say the Holy Ghost is moving through every aisle. From what I have seen in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches, those leading worship or pastors do this kind of arm waving as a cue to indicate the holy spirit/ghost is coming to the congregation, though the congregation typically only gets this subconsciously. This is common talk in all types of Pentecostal churches, hyping up crowds with promises of the Holy Spirit moving.

Within a few minutes of the sermon, the Modalism/Oneness theology began to come out, but I didn’t expect it to be as quickly and explicitly confirmed as it was here in the sermon near the 46 minute mark, where reverend Fish explicitly states that “God is not confused about his identity” and that “Jesus said he is the Almighty, there can’t three almighties, two almighies”, etc. When they say one God, they mean one God, as in no trinity, God has changed in terms of how he presents himself through time, and has different modes, but he is only one of these at a time, and it was in the order of God the Father, Jesus, and then the Holy Spirit.

I wasn’t surprised by the Modalism/Oneness ideologies, rather the brazenness with which it was being preached. I already saw the oneness/modalism theology on their website, When I went on the churches website before I attended that service on December 4, 2022, I came across this from the churches “Our Beliefs” page:

“We believe that Jesus is the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (Mat. 28:19; John 5:43, 10:30, 12:45, 14:8–9; Phil. 2:9-11) All the fullness of the godhead rests bodily in Jesus Christ. (Col. 2:9) “

And this:

This really hit home for me what I had gotten into, and it was around this point it all came together, and I thought “Wait, am I in a United Pentecostal Church?” As I showed above, it technically isn’t, they are independent, but theologically, they share beliefs with the UPC. All the suits the men were wearing, and the woman’s long hair and long dresses all made sense now. That is when I realized why they glared at me and looked like they hated me when I came in with my short hair, modest makeup, and jewelry. There is something to be said for modesty, and I would not condemn modesty as virtue, but in terms of UPC or UPC adjacent churches it is more than a virtue, and it becomes a requirement for spiritual points.

It is not that modest dressing is bad, but the way it is was practiced within this church, I felt as though it was not a hatred towards my supposed sinful infractions, but rather hatred specifically towards me as a person. It sounded a lot like what this former UPC church member on Reddit experienced:

These dress codes, in many of these churches appear to be very strictly enforced through strong peer pressure. To see where these ideas come from, I found this in the UPC Archives of their doctrinal statements. This statement from the 1977 position paper on Holiness from the UPCI explains their revulsion towards people who do not dress and look like they believe they should within their church:

“Separation from worldliness also involves the length of hair for men and women. The apostle Paul wrote, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman is of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering” (I Corinthians 11:1-15).”

And this:

“Today’s Western society reveals a desire for a synthetic appearance; dye for the hair, paint for the face, mascara and liner for the eyes, and other forms of make-up create artificiality rather than reality. These practices of using make-up are not new, for Queen Jezebel, whose very image speaks of rebellion and opposition to all that is godly and Christ-like, used facial paint and other make-up in her vanity to attract the attention of men: “And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out a window” (II Kings 9:30).”

Couple these things together, and it makes a very toxic and legalistic(by legalistic I mean forcing extra-biblical standards on people as though they were Biblical, much like the Pharisees did when they forced people to the standards that they made up in the tradition of the elders in Matthew 15.) environment.

(This is very typical dress with women in the UPCI, just like Charity Gayle)

This is not just plain modesty, all of the women have a specific look, they all dress very plain and simple, no makeup, no jewelry, and very long hair. When I came in there, I cannot say for certain, but it is likely they thought I was openly defying God, not their rules, but God’s rules. In which case, I suppose disgust was warranted, which would explain why once I told them I was new, they softened and had leniency for the way that I looked. I would like to note that maybe there is a lesson worth learning here, that we as the actual body of Christ, should take real sin a lot more seriously within the church or our circle of Christian friends. Yes, churches that lean on legalism, as this one does in terms of salvation and practices, tend to be harder on sin, but just because we believe in Christ alone, faith alone, grace alone without added things such as baptism and speaking in tongues, etc, does this mean we shouldn’t be hard on real sin?

If sin is unrepentant, as we see in Matthew 18:15-20, it must be taken very seriously indeed. Paul took sin seriously throughout the epistles, and in Romans 6 he makes it very clear that we must die to our old sin nature as a new creation in Christ:

“12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

As I sat there, I watched the men who appeared to be security, and it is not an exaggeration to say they gave off enforcer/mafia vibes. It felt like they might just toss you out if need be, they seemed to be there to also keep order and ensure the service happened the way it should, and to keep people in line if need be. Rewatching it on video does not have quite the same effect as when I was there in person because you can’t hear the reactions of those in the sanctuary very well, you can only see them sometimes, and it does affect your perception. You can’t really see the “security” guardsmen who kept staring at me or others, and how they seemed to keep watch and enforce things quietly.

Around the 57-minute mark, Fish starts to get really heated, and I remember watching this from my seat where I was further back, thinking, “Well this is interesting!“ As the men were signaled on stage to stand up, raise their arms, and we see Pastor Holmes waving his arm yet again in the motion mentioned earlier.

As I listened to this sermon, watching Fish jump up and down and scream more and more as time went on, while a lot of it was pure emotionalism, he talked about focusing on the tree Jesus hung on, rather than the tree in your house around Christmas time. Not all of it was bad, but the rampant emotionalism made it feel like an oral assault, I had never seen preaching like this in person. All I could think was, “Well this is what listening to a hardcore southern Pentecostal is like”. Especially here at 58:40 where Fish starts screaming very loudly about a gallon and a half of blood that he says Jesus lost on the cross, hence the title of the sermon.

All I can think of to call the men on stage waving their arms around is like an entourage, and as I review the video they were clearly there for the purpose of giving the impression the Holy Ghost was present and moving. I had seen this kind of manipulation before, but never so well done, this was a well-oiled machine indeed, very cleverly done, and very slickly done as well. The emotional bombast would distract you from noticing too much of the false teaching here, you would just get caught up in the moment. I left Pentecostalism (primarily Four Square) 6 years ago, and even before that, I started to see these lies and manipulations, and it disturbed me. Sitting here watching this disturbed me as well, but it also brought emotional feelings from the way I was brought up, it felt comfortable in a way because of my background.

I sat there praying the Lord would deliver people from this deception, and keep Fish from continuing to deceive people with his trinity-denying theology and his ridiculous emotionalism. That raw emotionalism can feel good, but it is a never-ending cycle of highs and lows and always searching for the next spiritual holy ghost high, which is absolutely destructive to one’s spiritual well-being. I understand why people would come to this church, and want what it has, it looks good, smells good, and feels good on the surface. It provides a structure and discipline that is lacking in the world at large, with clearly defined rules, and clearly defined gender/sex roles.

Here at the 103 mark, we get some ridiculous emotionalism that results in some uninterpreted tongues. Which is in clear violation of Corinthians 14. Complete with jumping and spinning and screaming; Fish calls this the Whirly Bird. Even if I agree with the message that Jesus did forgive me of my sins(which I do on a personal level), it is wrapped in a hyper-charismatic, modalistic package, and it should be denounced and called out for what it is; truth wrapped in lies and emotionalism.

(Fish getting very loud and jumping and spinning around)

By the time this sermon was done and we moved into extended worship at the end with intermittent shouting from Fish, I felt like I had been under an oral assault like no other. I did attempt to maintain some objectivity and keep in mind that even though there was some truth in this sermon, it was filled with lies and hyper-emotionalism. It was filled with legalism, and a chain around the neck, to keep so many rules that are not in the Bible, which we will cover more in future articles. However, just the idea that salvation requires water baptism and tongues. This is punctuated again here in the sermon by Fish, he explicitly says “I must choose to step into the watery grave, I must choose, I’m settling this once and for all”. I became more and more uncomfortable, it is very difficult to sit there listening to something you know is outright false. I had a very hard time sitting here listening to the scripture twisting, especially knowing some people would be and were deceived by it.

(This sanctuary floor was full, and it is not small.)

At the 122-minute mark, things start getting more hyped up, Fish calls people to grab each other’s hands across the aisle, and says “I feel something rising in this place right now.” I stood there as others moved in towards me and grabbed my hand. I was just standing there in the pew watching, observing that he didn’t seem to be getting the response he wanted, and I can’t say if it’s because I was praying he wouldn’t, but I was praying that whatever evil was intended, God would stop. I was praying for God to intervene and save these people from deception, and I hope he did, and I hope that he was blocking any demonic spirits that may have been there to deceive. Fish sure seemed frustrated here at 1:22:50 as he shouted “Come on something is happening!” He continued shouting these “something is happening” kind of things continually to try to ramp people up emotionally into a frenzy, and more uninterpreted tongues and encouraging people to speak in tongues here (By the way, I don’t believe tongues have continued, but if they had, they would be an actual real language).

Again, here at the 136-minute mark, Fish appears to be trying to slay this woman in the spirit, unsuccessfully. I was praying to the Lord that it would not work, and it clearly didn’t, he moved on to someone else. While I’m not saying it was a direct result of my prayer, it was interesting that nothing happened to her, and I’m thankful to God it did not.

(people are standing, but they are not getting very engaged.)

I could not wait to leave, but I still stayed the entire time, all the way through the worship at the end which lasted 40 minutes. I continued to watch the way those around the sanctuary and those on the stage reacted. If you watch the video of the crowd, things never get too crazy in the morning service, they were a little more unhinged in the evening service later that night. In both services, I saw people act, not so much emotionally spontaneously, but more what appeared to be a preprogrammed, expected response, I would liken it to a Kabuki theater performance, in terms of how it plays, not the actual performance, it just felt very rehearsed by both the audience and the players onstage.

When the sermon ended I felt so much relief—a few people came up to me and greeted me. One of them was an older woman who had grabbed my hand when we were told to hold hands. She was, in her 70’s, wearing a red dress suit, she came across as genuine and very kind. She didn’t come across as having a hidden agenda, and I felt like, if I sat next to her, she wouldn’t have glared at me like everyone else did. She proved that not everyone there, though clearly the majority, had a cold demeanor towards outsiders or those who seemed to be “defying God”. She was very kind in her demeanor, and I told her where I was from and why I was in town, and how long I was there for. She asked if I planned to come back for the evening service at 7 pm, and I said that I wasn’t sure, it depended on my husband and what he wanted to do. She expressed that she hoped I did come, told me the evening service was really great, and we parted.

On my way out, I walked through the sanctuary the long way, as I walked past men, they continued to glare. One man still sitting in a pew also glared at me directly in the eye as though he hated me. I, again, can only assume it was the short hair and light makeup, based on the UPC’s and UPC adjacent churches beliefs about these things as I outlined earlier. It sure made me feel like I did not want to stick around. I went to the bathroom before I left, and that was an experience in and of itself, one of the fanciest bathrooms I’ve ever been in, let alone at a church. It reminded me of some kind of fancy hotel bathroom.

Even in the bathroom, I couldn’t help but feel awkward and out of place, as little girls with their mothers just kept staring at me, the mothers looking at me, seemingly disapprovingly. I got out of the bathroom as quickly as I could.

(church brochure with map and gift card for the cafe.)

(I never went into the cafe, but this is what it looks like)

Once I left the bathroom, I thought about going to the cafe but decided against it. After all the staring and glaring at me, I just wanted to get out of that church as fast as possible.

I hurried to the front door, the doors looked just as imposing from the inside, and I wasn’t sure if the doors were open or if there was a button of some kind to open them, so I was hoping to tail behind someone else so I didn’t look stupid just in case they did lock internally.

I don’t think in the morning they were ever locked, but I was able to follow someone else through the door just in case. I later confirmed this suspicion that the doors could be internally locked, and you have to unlock them with a control panel next to the door. I found this out that evening because when my husband did indeed come back with me for the evening service, when we went to exit they were locked when we were leaving that service.

Once I stepped outside of those doors, I headed straight back up the hill to the far side of the parking lot back to my car, and left. I was unsure yet what to completely think about this experience, and I was eager to leave and get back to my husband to tell him what had happened.

When I went back to my husband after I left the service, I told him about everything that happened in the service and what it was like. I asked if he would come back with me that night, and although he had his reservations, he decided that we would go to the evening service later.

The evening service’ sermon was worse than the morning sermon in that it played much faster and looser with scripture. The sermon’s title was “Somewhere Between Worse and Worst.” This service was much more exuberant, in terms of Pentecostal antics, than the morning service. During the extended worship sections, people were running around the sanctuary, but not in a disorderly fashion. They started trains of people, one of women, and one of men, and they ran around in orderly sort of circles, it was a very strange thing to watch. In my research, I found that this seems to be fairly something common within these types of churches.

(this screenshot comes from Taylor’s Fish’s Facebook Page it is a different church, not FPCNLR, but I saw the same orderly circle running when I was at FPCNLR)

My husband and I just watched in amazement at the hyper-emotionalism and the screaming coming from Fish, and prayed God would deliver people from the deception within his teachings and the false doctrines in that sermon.

I won’t go into all of the details of the evening service, but it affected my husband because we both came from Pentecostal (non-UPC and non-Apostolic) backgrounds, and it very much dredged up some old memories and feelings for him.

Since I used to be a Pentecostal, I understand that having that emotional release in these services can feel good, but understand I am not saying it is good.

These services give you an outlet to just let all of your negative emotions out, and It does feel liberating. For example, after the evening service, I felt much better physically. I was feeling very sick and tired, and I believe something emotionally released just from being in that atmosphere, which made me feel better while I was in the service. Keep in mind, I was not participating in the rampant emotionalism during that service. I wasn’t running around, I was just sitting there watching the organized chaos. I don’t believe it was a mystical healing not spiritual. I do not believe that somehow the pastor imparted something that made me feel better, not at all. I think if I received anything he imparted, I’d have gotten more ill honestly.

Yet, it felt like I used to when I was a Pentecostal, you get this emotional high and it can give you a rush of endorphins that make you feel better in the moment, but then you get the crash because it is all endorphins and dopamine, it is never real. It’s a lot like a crash after drinking 3 energy drinks in a day.

I do not endorse this church or any similar church, or their practices. I have had similar emotional feelings and experiences from rock concerts or movies, and unlike Pentecostals, I don’t believe this makes those movies or concerts “anointed”, it just means I had an emotional experience based on something I saw or heard. Crying can make you feel better, and screaming or shouting can make you feel better, but putting some kind of spiritual spin on it does not make it spiritual. These are fleshly things, not spiritual things.

I am glad my husband came to this church so that he could see it for himself and not just hear my story. My husband was even wearing a suit though so he looked at least like he fit in. As we sat in the service we were approached by one of the men whom I call “mafia-like” security and asked if we were visiting, we told him we were and he left us alone.

We sat in the back, not the balcony, in the upper area of the sanctuary. Without realizing it until later in the service, I sat directly in front of the older lady in the red suit whom I talked to after the morning service ended. She seemed so pleased we came when she saw us, yes I do believe this was coincidental because I know we sat down after her, she did not sneak in and sit there behind us. Among all the stiff and austere people, she was a breath of fresh air. She was a sweet and earnest old lady, unlike the others, she didn’t seem to have the legalistic attitude as most of the other people I encountered there. I was happy to chat with her, and in fact, to this day, I still pray for her and pray she gets delivered from the deceptions in this church.

After we left the service, we were behind a father and his son going towards the main door to exit, and there was a control panel that disengaged what I assume is a magnetic lock. Kind of freaked me out a little bit, but that boy clearly grew up going there, and he knew what to do and how to disengage the lock. I was so relieved as I didn’t want to stand there looking like an idiot trying to figure out how to open the door.

As we walked outside back to our car, we were both very glad to leave. Being at that church had dredged up old feelings and memories for us both, but that was it, we left unscathed. Just because it produced “seemingly” good nostalgic feelings, does not mean we were running back to Pentecostalism, especially the oneness/modalist version.

(the far side of the parking lot.)

I want to make it clear, even if I think there are some positive things in this church, I am not only not endorsing this church, or any church like it, in fact, if you’re going to First Pentecostal Church of North Little Rock I hope you leave immediately, or any church that teaches similar doctrine If you are at one of these types of churches, leave, and go find a church that believes in the trinity, and has a true grace and faith-based view of salvation.

This church and those like it thrive on emotionalism, and legalism (that is practicing doctrines that are not in the Bible as though they were), and they often spend a lot of money on making their buildings lavishly ornate, while maybe not inherently sinful in all cases, at the very least it looks very gaudy and materialistic. For a church or denomination that focuses heavily on modesty, it is strange to have such opulent and extravagant buildings.

While that is it for this article, there is so much more to explore about this church, but I will leave it at that today. If you want to know more here is some of this church’s history:

Go here to read the rest. The next article in this series will detail more about the UPCI as a denomination itself believes, and what their history and doctrines are.

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